Carolina football's third spring practice is now in the books. The team was able to practice outside for the first time this spring. Among those who spoke to the media after practice were Coaches Shawn Elliott and G.A. Mangus and players Dylan Thompson, A.J. Cann, and Connor Mitch.
Elliott...pointed out that Carolina would like to see an offensive lineman receive individual accolades such as an All-SEC selection, but the ultimate goal is to win. Elliott pointed out that Connor Shaw was never an All-SEC selection but was clearly among the SEC's most successful quarterbacks during his career.
Our offensive line coach expressed a lot of excitement over the return of Mike Matulis. Elliott praised Matulis's drive to get back on the field and pointed out that Matulis will bolster the Gamecocks' depth on the offensive line by training to play guard in addition to tackle.
Elliott pointed out that he has several players taking snaps at center right now and that both Cody Waldrop and Clayton Stadnick are potential starters. In general, Elliott was extremely excited about the depth and versatility of this group of linemen.
Lastly, Elliott claimed that it doesn't make much difference to the offensive line whether they are blocking for a mobile QB such as Connor Shaw or a pocket passer such as Dylan Thompson.
Mangus...praised Dylan Thompson for his play so far. Mangus pointed out that Thompson is, unsurprisingly, much further along mentally than the other quarterbacks with his knowledge of the playbook and ability to read coverages. That said, Mangus explained that Thompson will receive plenty of reps this spring. Unlike Shaw entering his final season, Thompson has never been the regular starting quarterback and needs to continue to accrue experience.
Thompson...insisted that while he's not surprised Spurrier has expressed such confidence in him as the rising starter, he's committed to continuing to work to get better. Thompson said one of his points of emphasis this spring is getting the offense ahead on first down. Thompson admitted his tendency is to take risks and push the ball downfield on first down, but he wants to learn to take what the defense gives him in order to keep the chains moving via improving his completion percentage to Mangus's goal of 60-65%.
Cann...was asked a few questions about how the press he's receiving as one of the SEC's top linemen is affecting him, but he unsurprisingly brushed these questions off with the typical "I just want to win" line.
Cann did express a lot of confidence in his, Brandon Shell's, and Corey Robinson's ability to form the core of a very good line, and he also pointed out that the unit is gelling much more quickly this spring than in past years given the wealth of experience.
Cann pointed out that the right guard spot, the only one without a returning starter, is very much up for grabs between Matulis, Will Sport, and Na'Ty Rodgers. Elliott had previously said that Cody Waldrop may get looks there, too, if Clayton Stadnick starts at center.
Mitch...said that Mangus has praised him for his facility in learning the playbook. Mitch also said that learning under experienced players in Shaw and Thompson has helped him develop.
My takeaways...Listening to Elliott talk about his commitment to building line depth really confirms what a good hire he was. Most years since he's arrived, we've seen Carolina commit to taking several linemen in order to build depth. We're now seeing the benefit of that commitment, as we have a trio of potential All-SEC performers in Cann, Shell, and Robinson, as well as a wealth of other experienced players both on the first and second teams. It's unlikely that we'll be forced to give serious playing time to inexperienced offensive linemen this year, even if we suffer a rash of injuries. Cann's comments about how well the unit is gelling this early in the spring were also telling in this regard.
Thompson's comments about seeking to eliminate ill-advised risk-taking was also very encouraging. Obviously, we'll have to wait to see if these comments manifest themselves on the field, but he's at least aware of where he has the most work to do.
The Gamecocks continue spring practice tomorrow with another afternoon session and then Saturday with a morning session.The Gamecocks practice outside for the first time this spring.